Nostalgic Poet Mama, with a Downright Ugly Twinge of Jealousy

Ever since last week, I cannot help hearing the name Dessa Darling, a poet nearing Pop Icon status, and wrecking my serenity just a tiny bit. Only a tiny bit. Of course I’m happy for her. She is all over the internet, Twitter adores her, she was interviewed on The Splendid Table over the weekend on NPR, for Pete’s Sake, to learn about her eating habits while on tour. There are only itty-bitty twinges of jealousy in my spirit over this girl. If I met her in person, I would be a ridiculous fan, which would possibly hurt even more – the betrayal of my own silly fame-struck wonder being almost too much to bear.

Yet, I adore her, and do not begrudge her all her notoriety. There were a couple of minutes a few years ago when I performed in the spotlight of a spellbound audience, and heard the thunder of a roomful of people jumping to their feet to give me Standing Ovations. I floated home on wings of praise. I am a praise junkie, I will readily admit it. Standing on a stage, with a lectern and glass of water, and my little sheets of paper, with my soul spelled out boldly on each page was a delicious experience of mythical proportions to me.

Four years in a row, back in Fresno, I took part in a Fringe Festival of artists, which included shows by Stand-Up Comedians, Storytellers, Singer-Songwriters, Magicians, Troupes of Actors performing original plays, Belly Dancers, Filmmakers and Visual Artists. I performed my own poetry on a stage for 45 minutes. Each year was a different show, with different poetry – all my own. Each year the audiences increased, and I received rave reviews. I made people laugh and cry. I touched hearts. I am not deep or difficult. My work is very accessible and people said they related, and it was like I was telling their story. I was a show favorite. I was a Darling of the Rogue Festival.

Then came the year when I just couldn’t make the time to participate. Our lives had gotten so busy. And it wasn’t like we were too busy in a bad way. We had a business we were growing, a grown son, a son finishing high school, a nephew who had moved in with us for his last year in high school, we fed half the teenagers in the neighborhood at our house that year, we had two little kids, a home to maintain, and a marriage that was at the base and foundation of everything else and we were exhausted at the end of every day, and delighted with a few minutes of peace and quiet just for the two of us.

A small, melodramatic part of me was forlorn about missing the show, and not having time to prepare or participate. The sensible part of me realized how full and beautiful my life was and how lucky I was to be so busy with a bustling family. It was all I’d ever wanted. It was what I had spent my youth longing for and writing hopefully toward.

My mother pointed out that my children and my family are the poems I am writing today. (I say this in the present tense, because it held such power for me when she first said it, and it rings true for me every day of my life now.)

I heard Billy Collins say once, that when he was a young poet, he felt like he had a lot to say, and needed to share his heart with a large audience. As he became a famous poet, and a Poet Laureate (two times), he discovered that he didn’t really have anything important to say, he just really enjoyed saying it, and being heard. That is a paraphrase, I’m not sure of the ending, I just remember him saying he realized he didn’t have anything to say, and in his estimation, his poetry got better.

Writing about my children, as a blogger, isn’t done because I think I have anything to teach others. I am not a wonder mom, or a brilliant disciplinarian. My children are much more apt to act up in public than march along with me like good little soldiers. I wish I had great advice to share. I don’t write because I think I have anything to say. I write because my children and my family are the poems I write today. To sit back in awe and wonder of their every move, to write with the best grammar I know how to incorporate, to share the delight of their existence, to spin stories of the adventures of our shared learning – that is the poetry I write today.

The stark photo is at the edge of our property, and I love it for all it’s dark misgivings.

6 thoughts on “Nostalgic Poet Mama, with a Downright Ugly Twinge of Jealousy

  1. I hope to see you on stage some day performing your poems again. It sounds like a calling that hasn’t diminished in spite of the beautiful poetry you are making with your family and your life. You just made me think about they way all the actions we perform with love are worthy of applause.

    Applauding you!

    1. Thank you so much. As the boys are getting older, I hope to become more and more involved in the rich artistic culture here in Southern Oregon. Perhaps I’ll find my way to the stage again. I do love it.

  2. oh, liesl, you’re still a darling of the rogue festival–your rogues are just fewer and littler but they are going to rival those audiences who loved you in fresno with their accolades in another 20 years, just you wait.
    i love this post so much that i’m off to share it. thank you for writing about what so many of us mommies at the keyboard are thinking.

    1. This brought years to my eyes. I’m such a sucker for a kind word. Thanks.

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